In Memoriam: Bill Drenttel

It is with great sadness that the student leaders of the Design & Innovation Club, on behalf of all students at SOM, write about the passing of William Drenttel, former Senior Faculty Fellow and Social Enterprise Fellow at the Yale School of Management.  He passed away on December 21st after battling brain cancer for over a year.  He was 60 years old.

While few current students were privileged to have Bill as a teacher – he last taught at SOM two years ago – each of our academic lives have been impacted by him throughout our time here.  Bill was fundamental to bringing the concept of design thinking to SOM: he taught ‘Designers Designing Design,’ a pioneering course that “explored design as a methodology”; he was responsible for the development and funding behind the SELCO Solar Energy case that is taught in Global Social Enterprise and the Mayo Clinic case that is taught in Innovator; and three years ago, he was instrumental in helping the nascent Design & Innovation Club get off the ground and eventually become one of the three largest clubs on campus.

Bill was tirelessly supportive of students, and generous with his time and resources.  With his help, Yale SOM students were able to create the first MBA Innovation Summit, and he brought to campus many incredible design minds, including Michael Bierut, Robert Fabricant, and Tim Brown – all of whom have now built strong and lasting relationships with Yale and with SOM.  Additionally, Bill was an advisor and mentor to our club’s leadership on a multitude of initiatives, including attending the Design Management Institute’s FutureED Conference in Chicago over the summer and Ziba hosting a product design workshop on campus this fall.

But these recent contributions to SOM only represent a fraction of Bill’s remarkable career as a designer, writer, social entrepreneur, and thought leader.  Together with his wife, Jessica Helfland, he founded Winterhouse, a diverse design practice, as well as Design Observer, a leading design publication now led by Michael Mossoba, an SOM alum.  When Bill and Jessica were recently honored by the American Institute of Graphic Arts, Michael Bierut wrote this biography on the duo.  Like our description of Bill’s contributions to SOM, it only scratches the surface of his impressive legacy.

We owe so much to Bill.  We are endlessly grateful for his investedness in us and we mourn his loss with extremely heavy hearts.

Mathew Chow ’14 with

Chelsea Acosta ’14, Jessica Gage ’14, Sarah Greenwalt ’14, Dennis Tseng ‘14

Deirdre Cerminaro ’13, Patty Devlin ’13, Brandon Larson ’13, Bekka Rabison ‘14

Courtney Drake ’12, Emma Pollack-Pelzner ’12

And the rest of the SOM student body